Lovely, Dark, and Deep

Greetings, dear readers.

You may recall the words of the title are in a famous poem by Robert Frost, describing the woods on a snowy evening. The poem has been interpreted a number of way. What resonates for me is the idea that the beauty of the woods is alluring and the traveler would love to explore. It is certainly not snowy here right now, but the summer woods are lovely, too.

On an overcast day, even hours before nightfall, these nearby woods are thick enough to be deeply shaded, hiding deer, wildflowers, raccoons and possums, and even a fox, now and then. There is something miraculous about just knowing they are there.

Not all the treasures there are completely hidden. On my brief walk today I was delighted to find a few ripe berries, not quite hidden.

Not even a handful, but three ripe raspberries are a treat to be savored.


Readers, I hope there are treasures where you walk today. Be well and safe; I am grateful you are here. Your thoughts and comments are welcome – they are moderated, so it can take a little time for them to appear.

Walkabout

Greetings, dear readers.

I walked today after a rain, a stroll, really – I wasn’t getting anywhere fast and it left me open to those chance meetings that happen on country roads. I was watching two turkey vultures pop up off an old deer carcass in the field below the road, one was an adult, the other was in scrappy plumage, likely a younger bird. While I tried not to disturb their meal more than necessary a pickup truck pulled up next to me. The driver looked at the turkey vultures, now perched on a slanting power pole, and then back at me.

“That’s some big birds,” he remarked.

A few minutes of pleasant conversation followed. Country gentlemen of a certain age always know what’s what. We both remarked on the gawky feathers of the younger bird and the large roost a few miles away (over a hundred turkey vultures and black vultures – they can make an impression) and then he waved and drove off. Something about the whole exchange just made me happy – maybe the simple joy of sharing human conversation with someone willing to slow down for a moment and watch a big ol’ bird.

My other conversations for the walk were more one-sided. I did not find the box turtle I’d seen the day before and had moved out of the path of an oncoming SUV. I was glad her travels had been safe. A doe studiously ignored me while grazing in the open on someone’s grass. I found the milkweed bloom moving along, but we still have a dearth of butterflies and the bees have the flowers to themselves.

Milkweed communicate with color and chemistry – the bloom has a heady fragrance that can be detected from forty feet away, sweet, pungent, a little dusty. Every flower is a tiny wonder.

This means my walk was bookended by carrion-consuming bald-headed birds with a five-foot wing span and heaven-scented bundles of barely half-inch flowers. Bounty enough for any one day.


Readers, I hope the day brought the bounty you were looking for. Be safe and well, I am grateful you are here and your comments are always welcome.

Going Small

Greetings, dear readers

This was a day for small things. A small class for just two willing participants. A small bit of progress on a work project. And a walk along my small road finding beauty in little things.

Milkweed just before bloom. The perfection of these sleeping buds, each one no bigger than a pea, always tugs at me.

Solstice musings

Greetings, dear readers.

Summer is rising and we are enjoying the longest days of the year in the northern hemisphere. As spring gives way to summer, flowers give way to fruit. I found the first ripe raspberry of the year on my walk, one tiny pearl of distilled sunlight. The roadside crop will be slim this year – road crews cut the canes last fall and these bushes bear on second-year wood.

Nature has no interest in my plans or expectations, whether I’m looking for berries to sprinkle on my cereal, or thinking that an afternoon shower will hold off long enough for me to finish my walk. And sometimes defying expectation goes to truly astonishing lengths.

This is the base of twinned locust trees, skirted with poison ivy vines. The trunk on the right rises straight and solid. The one on the left has a large open crack that you can see all the way through and it runs at least five feet up the center of the trunk. If I told you that one of these trunks ends in a dead snag and the other in a relatively healthy crown, you would expect the cracked tree to be dead. It is not.

Somehow the crack hasn’t stopped the crown from growing and whatever struck the top of its twin did not stop this tree. I don’t know what is holding the tree together, and luckily, it is not dependent on my understanding. It just stands and doesn’t worry how.

Nature had a bit of a laugh at me today. I think she deserves her fun. 


Wishing you peace upon the solstice and cheers to all who father, mentor, coach, and create families with love on Father’s Day. Keep safe and well; I am grateful you are here. 

Taglia-telling

Greetings, dear readers.

I’ve done it now. It seems that making pasta has become more than a few one-offs.

Yesterday I ran into some late afternoon hiccups at work and at home that led to taking a walk to relax and then running home to wash off a potential poison ivy encounter. Since I was already home early, and in need of a little solace, I did what we always do in my family – I decided to cook.

And I decided to cook pasta. From scratch.

There is something decidedly therapeutic about creating a well in the flour and then swirling a fork through the eggs in the well to slowly incorporate the flour. The feel of the dough, stiff to fold and press is different than bread. It reaches an elasticity that is smooth and resilient.

While the dough rests, you can decide on the sauce. And then at the end of the rest, you roll. And roll and roll. And eventually, it is thin enough.

And somehow all the energy of the day has been reimagined and transformed by egg and flour into supple sheets. And you have made pasta. And it tastes good. 

This is the kind of magic I could get used to.


Readers, I hope there’s a little magic out there in your world. I have a sense that many of us could use some tonight. I hope you are keeping safe and well and I am grateful you are here.

An Appreciation

Greetings, dear readers.

I am appreciating a long-time friend today.

The beautiful cherry tree that graced my front yard for 25 years, and was offering armloads of lovely white blooms just two weeks ago reached a critical juncture. It dropped a huge branch this week without any wind and that’s when I saw that the leaves at the tops of both trunks were withered, a sign that all was not well.

61365758009__A385FF00-9AAD-4D15-8E03-249F94756DEFThis tree was just a sapling small enough for me to wrap my hand around when I moved in. I gave it a collar to protect it from pests and it grew. Over the years it has hosted dozens of species of birds and offered shade and bloom and its sour tiny fruit. The blue jays adore the cherries, shouldering their way through the branches and holding raucous conversations. Just a few weeks ago I was thrilled to see a Yellow-billed Cuckoo perched where I could see him from my window. A mockingbird teased my cat from a safe perch for most of one summer.

The fruit did not set well this year, which is odd, given the rain and warmth. And standing on the lawn with an arborist the next evening I saw what I hadn’t before – there was a big hollow at the base. My lovely tree was in the process of dying.

The smaller trunk cantilevered over my roof, which meant I could not leave it to nature to take its course because that path would likely run through my living room. The tree service took it down the next morning, leaving behind the breath of sawdust, many memories, and a young hackberry (a native tree of the elm family) that has come up next to it to try to fill some very big roots.

I am grateful for all those years of shade and bloom and fruit. I will miss my friend.


Readers, I hope this finds you well and safe – I am grateful you are here! As always, your comments are welcome.

Ravioli Redux

Greetings, dear readers!

Amid unseasonal heat and thunderstorms, the mid-week adventure today was another romp of the culinary variety.

Did you know that beautiful pasta can be made with just two ingredients? I’m not sure I’ve made it yet, but I did thoroughly enjoy the attempt. There is pure magic in taking a mound of flour, creating the circular well in it, and then dropping in two eggs to be slowly imbued with the flour until it melds together in a thick paste, and then you push the remaining flour into the mass until it becomes a pliant yellow ball. And then you push, and turn, push and turn, working the dough until it is smooth and resilient.

This dough is left to rest while a filling of spinach and ricotta is created. Then you return to the dough, cut it in half and begin rolling, gently, into sheets wide enough to accept a dollop and fold over. You dollop, seal, crimp, and cut, and then boil the ravioli, carefully turning them over half way through.

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Everything is done by touch, feel, smell, and taste. You pay attention to your food. And it repays you richly.

Especially if you heat some butter with fresh sage leaves until the sage is fragrant and the butter is brown and nutty and pour it over the ravioli, nestled in a bowl. A sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano is not out of place.

My goodness. A few simple ingredients, an observant hour, and a reward that far outpaces that modest input.

I will definitely try this magic again.

 


Readers, there is still upheaval and sadness in the world. I hope these few quiet moments give you a sense of peace and comfort, a place to refuel before you go out and do the things you think are important. I am grateful you took the time to be here.

Sweet thief

Greetings, dear readers.

June has begun with a stretch of warmer weather, making for a little extra degree of difficulty as I make my way up the hill on my walk. It does make me appreciate all the more the shaded portions of the route.

Today’s stroll revealed a tiny treasure stealing bites of one if my favorite plants.

This is a third or fourth instar monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexilippus) nestled in the heart of a common milkweed.

I could go on and on about this lovely creature’s life cycle and the miracles of metamorphosis and migration. Somehow, right now, the miracle of its being is enough.

Readers, I wish you small miracles to sweeten your days.


Like the caterpillar, we are all emerging into the light of June as restrictions ease. I hope you are well and safe. As always, I welcome your comments and I am grateful you are here.

Roadside Report

Greetings, dear readers.

Here is today’s ‘roadside report’ from my small world.

After some rainy weeks, we’ve had some days of warm sun and the daisies on the meadowy slope behind my house have burst into full bloom, popping up in big white bunches all across the hillside.

I took advantage of the sunny day and walked a little earlier, and finally solved a mystery.

I have seen these plants often on my walks over the years and have photographed their handsome leaves. I had no idea what they were; some type of ivy I assumed. Not quite.

Some determined googling this evening (it amuses me that that is now a verb) finally scored with Dioscorea oppositifolia L. – aka, cinnamon vine, or air potato. It is a vine in the sweet potato family. Like many of the roadside plants I see, it is not native and can be a pest.

It’s a pest that hangs its heart on its sleeve, and who can resist a rapscallion bearing valentines?


Readers, I hope there are some unexpected valentines in your world. Be well and safe. Your comments are always welcome and I am grateful you stopped by here today.

A long walk

So – A man died.

heart crop

Well – A man died a week ago.

Really – A man died a week ago in Minneapolis.

Actually, that’s not the whole truth.

A man died a week ago in Minneapolis at the hands of other men. They kneeled upon his helpless body until he called out in pain and terror. They kneeled upon his helpless body until he no longer had breath to plead. They kneeled upon his helpless body until he no longer breathed. In front of witnesses. And without compunction.

A man died in Minneapolis a week ago at the hands of other men and his name was George. George had a family and a community and a life. George was a man, one, irreplaceable, beautiful, flawed, imperfect, wholly holy human being. The breath was squeezed out of him because other men who carried guns and badges suspected he might – might – have used a $20 bill that was counterfeit to buy a sandwich.

The real counterfeit is that excuse.

Without trying I can recall the names of ten people of color who did not survive encounters with police that are supposed to be routine and nonviolent, including a twelve year old boy playing with a toy. And that’s just the surface of my far-too-faulty memory. The list is heart-breakingly, horrifyingly long. I hear those names and I hear the empty echo of lives cut short and I see the faces of my students, my colleagues, my friends. 

We have to do better than this.

The truth is that some of us do. I am grateful for that. There are many police officers who hold the words ‘protect and serve’ in their hearts and they show up for it and show it everyday. However small the number of those who do not, and who use a badge and a gun as an excuse to meet difference with violence, their number is far too many because it tears families, and communities, and countries apart. Time and time again.

Thinking about what was done to George Floyd tears me in half. I don’t know how we move forward from something like this, though I’m pretty sure the real solution doesn’t  involve flaming dumpsters and tear gas. The closest thing to a solution I’ve seen was a Genessee county sheriff* who took off his tactical gear and faced a line of peaceful protesters as a man and asked, “What do you want us to do?” And someone said “Walk with us.” And so he did. They all did. 

My friends, let us walk. 


Readers, this evening people in cities all over the world are bearing witness to the horrific toll of systemic racism in positions of power. Most are peaceful, even if angry and hurt and fearful. Let’s pass on the message, not the madness. Be well and safe.  

*This is one news story: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/05/31/genesee-county-sheriff-christopher-swanson-george-floyd-protesters/5299589002/